Violence Rocks Rameswaram As Fishermen Protest Against Verdict

Violence Rocks Rameswaram As Fishermen Protest Against Verdict

Sporadic violence broke out in and around this island as a large number of people staged protest against a Sri Lankan court verdict awarding death sentence to five fishermen from here.

As the news about the court order spread, protesters cut roadside trees, pelted stones at vehicles and set ablaze a bus in different localities, triggering tension.

Armed police personnel had been rushed to troubled spots. Top police and revenue officials were also rushing to the spot to control the situation and hold talks with the agitating fishermen.

Police said more than 3,000 fishermen and women blocked road traffic at nearby Thangachimadam and indulged in violence by felling the trees and pelting stones at vehicles.

A state-owned transport corporation bus plying between Rameswaram and Pamban was torched and a Kanyakumari-bound tourists bus damaged by the protesters.

The mobs also damaged railway tracks and other railway properties at Thangachimadam, police said.

Four trains from here to Chennai, Kanyakumari and Madurai could not leave the station as scheduled this evening, railway officials said.

Relatives of the convicted fishermen maintained that the five were innocent and the Sri Lankan navalmen had filed false case against them.

"It is shocking to hear that the innocent fishermen had been sentenced to death," one Benitto told PTI. T Sesuraja, president of the local fishermen's association, alleged the case was "concocted" and the central and state governments had failed to protect the fishermen.

The five fishermen -- Agastas, Emerson, Langlet, Prasath and Wilson -- and three Sri Lankan nationals were arrested on Nov 28, 2011 on charges of smuggling heroin.

He said even the Tamil Nadu government took a stand that false case had been filed against the fishermen and it was even helping their families by providing them Rs 250 per day each, besides meeting the case expenses since their arrest.

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